#OurOpinion #Editorial #JimFranco #SpotlightNews
“Get over it.”
Three words and people start going crazy.
I did not attend the Town Board meeting when a member, Paul Rosano, told a member of Save Colonie: A Partnership for Planning, Susan Weber, to “get over it” because there was nothing of particular interest on the agenda.
I did watch the meeting after flabbergasted members of the grassroots group plastered social media and sanctimoniously claimed the offense paralleled those of Attila the Hun. And, honestly, I still didn’t see the newsworthiness of the exchange but since everyone is talking about it I thought I would weigh in too.
Maybe it’s because I covered Troy for so long. During my nearly 20 years over there, I saw a group similar to Save wear pig snouts to a meeting and then proceeded to oink at the City Council. Another time, members of the public wore those Groucho Marx glasses, complete with bushy eyebrows and mustache, because a member did something they didn’t like and who bears a striking resemblance to the early 20th century comedian. Another time a woman threatened to shoot the entire Council with a machine gun. She was escorted out with a warning to yours truly to not put it in print.
Another time, a regular attendee of the meetings was so rude for so long, a member of the austere City Council finally snapped and told the taxpaying member of the public that if she was on fire he would not … I think you can guess the rest.
The thing is, what everyone got all testy about wasn’t even that big of a deal. A developer wants to use a common driveway to build three single family homes on Denison Road near the Niskayuna town line. Since the developer wants to use a common driveway, what is called an Open Development Area is required and that needs Town Board approval. As I understand it, if the developer wanted to build three homes with three separate driveways he would not need such a designation.
But, it’s his land. That’s what he wants to do, and he is jumping through all the appropriate hoops to do it. By some rationale or another, the Save people claim it’s just a first step in developing the other 99 wooded acres located off Denison. It might happen. It might not. Who knows. What we do know is the guy wants to build three homes off Denison.
I live on Birchwood Lane, and Denison turns into Birchwood as you cross the Niskayuna line towards Route 7 so I know the area well. I used to walk my dog in the woods across Denison from this latest proposal before that land was cleared and the trees and trails were replaced by high-end homes.
I wasn’t happy about it, but it’s not my land so there really wasn’t anything I could do. Sure, I would have liked to have seen it remain wooded, so my dog could have danced and pranced around the trees and ferns till his heart was content. But it’s not mine, and last I knew property owners have rights too. More rights even than my dog dancing and prancing through the woods and ferns. Now, I take her to the preserve by Lock No. 7 or the Lisha Kill Preserve. Notice the operative word there is “preserve,” which means it is “preserved” for dancing and prancing dogs.
You can’t help but like the passion that drives the Save group. Or the half dozen or so who spend a considerable amount of time relentlessly wielding the Freedom of Information Act to get all sorts of benign documents from Town Hall. The same handful who religiously come to the twice monthly Planning Board meetings, which can run three-plus hours, and stick cell phones in the developers’ faces to make videos as if they were the devil incarnate looking to run every chipmunk out of Colonie.
I have written a considerable amount of words on the evils of apathy, and on urging people to get involved and at least make it to the polling places once a year. The bottom line is anytime the public is engaged is a good thing.
But the handful of Save people cross the line based on what I said just a few graphs ago — land owners have rights too. It pains me when speakers try to tell the developer how the building should look, or where it should go. One resident actually asked one developer if he could make the ceilings lower so the three-story building wouldn’t sit as high and screw up the view from her backyard.
It’s also unfair of Save members to lob unfounded accusations against the town officials and employees and developers about secret payoffs and back room deals. Or for ignoring the neighborhoods and stomping on the environment all in the name of a quick buck and paving paradise.
Back a few hundred years ago, what is now Colonie was basically one big farm. Many of the acres being developed now are owned by old farming families looking for a retirement nest egg. That is their right, just like it is the right of any landowner and any developer so long as zoning standards and regulations are followed.
As has been written on these pages, the Planning Board, a body of regular citizens basically volunteering their time, does a pretty decent job of balancing all the conflicting interests and deserves credit for their effort rather than condemnation at every turn.
One final thought, most municipalities would kill for the development happening in the Town of Colonie.
True, there is a bunch of it and for good reason. It is centrally located. The taxes are relatively low. The amenities, like parks and fire and police protection, are fantastic. The school districts are superb. It is one of the best places to live work and play in the Capital District.
But, don’t try to build in my backyard.
If you are still wondering, the Town Board postponed the Denison Road vote for two weeks and you can bet the Save people will not “get over it.” They claim they are not anti-development, or anti-property rights or anti-anything but I have yet to see them embrace or endorse the building of even a tree fort.
Jim Franco has covered news in the Capital District for more than 20 years.